A wrench in the Amazon deal, taking a jail to court and a new substitute NYCHA head

signs facing the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), a federal prison used mostly for pre-trial detention, in Brooklyn, New York
signs facing the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC), a federal prison used mostly for pre-trial detention, in Brooklyn, New York
JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Remnants of the protests outside the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, which lead to the filing of a lawsuit by Federal Defenders of New York.

A wrench in the Amazon deal, taking a jail to court and a new substitute NYCHA head

Rounding up the week’s political news
February 8, 2019

After criticizing New York’s newly expanded abortion law during his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump decided that he wasn’t done with his home state for the week. When meeting with regional reporters at the White House, he offered a piece of advice for upstate New Yorkers who have concerns about the region’s economy: Get out. Trump said if the state doesn’t treat them right, they should just move to a different one and “get a great job.” With or without Trump’s prompting, people already are leaving New York. Of course, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the weather is to blame for that, not the area’s struggling economy.

Amazon’s worst enemy

In the latest installment of New York’s Amazon drama, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recommended that Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris serve on the state Public Authorities Control Board. His position on the board could potentially give him the ability to single-handedly scrap the $3 billion deal for Amazon to build an office complex in Queens, a deal he strongly opposes. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who still needs to approve the appointment, did not take kindly to the recommendation, saying Senate Democrats were putting politics over the state. He even suggested that the deal may no longer even need the approval of the control board.

The debating game

Ten of the 17 candidates for New York City public advocate took to a crowded stage for the first of two debates before the Feb. 26 special election. Amazon was the main foil for the candidates, as each one criticized how the deal came about and attacked each other over their positions on the e-commerce giant. Candidates also previewed what their first piece of legislation would be, ranging from a $30 minimum wage to a moratorium on rezonings. And New York City Councilman Jumaane Williams once again took flak for his past personal opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

Taking a jail to court

After at least a week without heat and power, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn finally had both restored. But defense lawyers filed a lawsuit about the “inhumane” and “unconstitutional” conditions, which the warden had denied. The federal jail drew the attention of six judges, one of whom toured the facility and described what she considered an ongoing “humanitarian crisis.” The U.S. Department of Justice also announced that it would investigate what happened at the detention center.

Budget shortfall

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state brought in $2.3 billion less than expected in tax revenues in December and January. Add that to the $500 million revenue dip projected in December, and the state is now facing a $2.8 billion budget shortfall as negotiations for the fiscal year 2020 budget have gotten underway. Cuomo blamed the gap on the federal tax law, which capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000. He did not offer recommendations of where to trim spending, while state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the state must increase its reserve fund.

Tightening the belt in New York City

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his $92.2 billion budget proposal for the next fiscal year, a $3 billion increase compared to last year’s budget. But despite the proposed spending increase, the city predicted that it will take in $935 million less in taxes than projected. De Blasio placed the blame on volatility in the stock market at the end of last year, while also pointing fingers at Albany. In addition, the city will need to find $750 million in savings that will come from extending a partial hiring freeze and cuts to city agencies, the first since de Blasio took office.

Another substitute NYCHA head

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tapped city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia as the new interim chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority. She replaces Stanley Brezenoff, who was forced out as part of the city’s deal with the federal government to appoint a monitor. Like Brezenoff, Garcia will fill the role on an interim basis, and will step down once de Blasio finds a permanent replacement, who must be approved by the feds. In the meantime, she is not planning any big shake-ups at the agency.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.
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